Updated: Feb 10, 2021
WINNIPEG: The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is in the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench (virtually) in Winnipeg today, arguing that the unprecedented and broad delegation of the government’s lawmaking power to a single medical officer is unconstitutional. The Justice Centre has, so far, filed constitutional challenges to the lockdowns in British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba. The Manitoba case, filed December 9, 2020, has been divided into two hearings on two separate issues. On Tuesday, February 9, and possibly continuing on Wednesday, Chief Justice Joyal of the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench will hear a challenge to the constitutionality of the section of the Public Health Act which delegates broad authority to Chief Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, to make Public Health Orders. The Justice Centre will argue that the transfer of such broad lawmaking power to one person is unconstitutional because it violates the constitutional principles of democracy, the rule of law, and the separation of powers. The Justice Centre is representing seven churches, a minister, a deacon, and an individual fined for peacefully exercising his Charter rights to associate and to express himself at a rally in Steinbach, Manitoba. Members of the faith communities bringing the lawsuit say they have suffered from the infringement of their constitutional rights to worship, gather and fellowship, and that these infringements have given rise to loneliness, a crisis of conscience and harm to their mental and spiritual well-being due to the prohibitions on in-person worship which have persisted since mid-November, 2020. The Manitoba government permits many people to gather in big box stores, and in smaller numbers in liquor stores, while places of worship must remain closed entirely. The Justice Centre will argue that giving Dr. Roussin unilateral power to make laws of broad and general application (i.e. the Public Health Orders) is unconstitutional because there is insufficient oversight and limits to his power, and the democratically-elected representatives of Manitobans have no role in reviewing, debating or amending the Orders. The Applicants are asking the court to strike down the Orders and section 67 of The Public Health Act, the legislation which authorizes the Orders. “While the province can delegate authority on a limited and narrow basis, the broad grant of nearly unlimited power to Dr. Roussin is unconstitutional,” states lawyer John Carpay, president of the Justice Centre. “Manitobans have essentially been living under a medical dictatorship over much of the last year, and it is time that the courts weigh in on this unprecedented experiment on the populace.” The second part of the Applicants’ claim is the Charter challenge, which is scheduled for a lengthy eight-day hearing beginning April 19, 2021. This portion of the lawsuit challenges Manitoba’s lockdown measures as unjustified violations of the freedoms of conscience, religion, expression, association and peaceful assembly, guaranteed to the Applicants and all Manitobans under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The application also contends that Manitoba, Dr. Brent Roussin as Chief Public Health Officer, and Dr. Jazz Atwal as the Acting Deputy Chief Public Health Officer, failed to consider the collateral social and health costs of locking down society, and asserts that their Orders cannot be justified under section 1 of the Charter. The Justice Centre has been inundated with hundreds of emails from people in Manitoba who are being financially ruined by lockdowns, suffering from mental health and social and domestic problems, losing their businesses and retirement, and being ticketed by bylaw officers for refusing to wear masks or for continuing to assemble with friends and family. Many individuals have been unable to see their elderly parents and still more have been denied critical health care for conditions other than Covid. The Justice Centre argues that the extreme actions of public health officials has caused more harm to society and human life than Covid-19.